Montgomerie in right mood for major warfare

Click to follow

Taking on Tiger Woods is the least of Colin Montgomerie's worries when he steps on to a golf course in the United States. Winning over the American public is an even more challenging proposition for the Scot. While there are a number of assumptions to be made in considering the possibility of Monty having an eight-footer for victory next week at the USPGA Championship at Valhalla, the volume level that may accompany it is not one of them. "I don't think you ever expect 100 per-cent silence," Montgomerie said. "I would love an eight-footer to win."

Taking on Tiger Woods is the least of Colin Montgomerie's worries when he steps on to a golf course in the United States. Winning over the American public is an even more challenging proposition for the Scot. While there are a number of assumptions to be made in considering the possibility of Monty having an eight-footer for victory next week at the USPGA Championship at Valhalla, the volume level that may accompany it is not one of them. "I don't think you ever expect 100 per-cent silence," Montgomerie said. "I would love an eight-footer to win."

Woods, in his present double-Open winning form, is a serious danger to the 37-year-old ever winning his first major championship. Montgomerie is not unique in that but his give-and-take relationship with the American crowds - they give the abuse and he has to take it - is a factor others do not have to deal with to the same extent.

But, rather than it being an insurmountable hurdle, Montgomerie tries to thrive on what happened at the Ryder Cup at Brookline last year. "The more the volume increases, the better I do," he said. "I'd like to say that it wouldn't happen if I was leading with a couple of holes to play next week, but I have to expect it and cope with it.

"It gives me strength. It fires me up but it does affect friends and family walking round. Since the Ryder Cup, I have to admit it has improved a lot with the crowd in America. They respect me a lot more. Hopefully, there will not be a problem next week because nobody wants it and it doesn't help the tournament. I just hope to play well enough to find out."

The ease with which Montgomerie ascended to the top of the leaderboard on the opening day of the Victor Chandler British Masters suggest he will be taking the requisite form on the plane to Louisville, Kentucky. Monty's eight-under 64, one stroke outside the course record, gave him a one-stroke lead over Mark McNulty. Gary Orr, Raymond Russell and Mathias Gronberg shared third place on 67, with Paul Lawrie among those on 68.

With one of the European Tour's leading titles at stake, yet some of the top players such as Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke, Jose Maria Olazabal, Sergio Garcia and Miguel Angel Jimenez either already in America or heading out there over the weekend, Montgomerie was in his element. "I came here for the competition," he said. "Some of the other top European golfers are going over early to prepare in their way. I feel he best way for me is to have competitive practice, if you like, and I've done exactly what I wanted to do."

Montgomerie was virtually purring with satisfaction, declaring his score "the highest it could have been". He hinted he would be out on his private putting green at home last night, as well having a session with his personal trainer, and then getting up at 5am to drive up from Surrey. After winning seven Order of Merits without practice, he must be getting serious.

The key to the round was the first hole, which in his case was the 505-yard 10th. Bunkered by the green in two, Monty holed his recovery for an eagle three. Two under par, no putts and a smile. Another eagle came at the 18th, where he hit a two-iron to eight feet and holed the putt. Having turned in 33, three more birdies followed on the front nine.

While Montgomerie, at this level, has always managed to do what Woods now does in the majors, namely intimidate the field, McNulty could not be less concerned. Despite being one of the leading qualifiers at the Open, the Zimbabwean was recently "read the riot act" by his coach, David Leadbetter. Bad habits had crept into his swing to the extent that when they compared videos of his current swing with that of three years ago in split-screen, "I felt like getting the bucket out and vomiting. It feels like I have a brand new swing.

"In the context of that," he added, "what Monty is doing doesn't bother me one little bit. I expect that from Colin. You have to accept that he is a great player. The fact that he has not won a major is sad but his time will still come. But if you sit back and say you can't do that, you are in trouble. All I'm interested in is what I'm trying to achieve."

Ian Woosnam managed just two birdies in his 71, leaving him four strokes between Gronberg, who currently holds the 12th and last qualifying place for the NEC World Invitational in two weeks' time. The Swede needs to stay ahead of the Welshman, and his countryman Patrik Sjoland, who had a 68.

Complete first-round scores

Par 72; GB or Irl unless stated

64 C Montgomerie; 65 M McNulty (Zim); 67 M Gronberg (Swe), G Orr, R Russell; 68 J Bickerton, I Giner (Sp), T Gogele, G Hamerton, R Johnson (Swe), P Sjoland (Swe), S Torrance, N O'Hern (Aus), V Phillips, O Elasson (Swe), T J Muñoz (Sp), P Lawrie, P-U Johansson (Swe), J Lomas; 69 T Gillis (US), T Bjorn (Den), R Claydon, S Tinnig (Den), J Sandelin (Swe), S Field, P Fulke (Swe), C Hanell (Swe), G Owen, A McLardy (SA), P Quirici (Swit), J F Remesy (Fr), B Davis, A Hansen (Den), B May (US), D Robertson, I Garbutt, S Hansen (Den), P Nyman (Swe); 70 R Green (Aus), M Anglert (Swe), P O'Malley (Aus), J Moseley (Aus), J Wade (Aus), J Skold (Swe), M Mouland, P Linhart (Sp), P Mitchell, D Borrego (Sp), P Walton, A Coltart, R Goosen (SA), M Scarpa (It), D Gilford, S Allan (Aus), J Berendt (Arg), C Suneson (Sp), S Kjeldsen (Den), F Tarnaud (Fr); 71 M Lafeber (Neth), I Garrido (Sp), E Darcy, B Lane, G Norquist (US), D Carter, R Chapman, S Lyle, P McGinley, D De Vooght (Bel), P Eales, M Farry (Fr), B Teilleria (Fr), M Mackenzie, K Tomori (Japan), S Struver (Ger), N Vanhootegem (Bel), I Woosnam, D Smyth, G Rojas (Arg), D Park, N Fasth (Swe), D Howell, F Lindgren (Swe), S Luña (Sp), M Florioli (It), R McFarlane, P Archer; 72 M Lanner (Swe), P Baker, F Jacobson (Swe), J Rose, Kyi Hla Han (Myan), J M Carriles (Sp), S Gallacher, E Boult (NZ), C Rocca (It), G Emerson, S Webster, G Turner (NZ), K Storgaard (Den), L Batchelor, P Affleck, H Otto (SA); 73 M A Martin (Sp), R Coles, I Poulter, S Wakefield, J Senden (Aus), T Johnstone (Zim), A Scott (Aus), I Hutchings (SA), B Langer (Ger), S Leaney (Aus), M Davis, B Dredge, J Mellor, A Forsbrand (Swe), G Hutcheon; 74 A Forsyth, H Nystrom (Swe), P Golding, D Lee, F Cea (Sp), G Murphy, D Lynn, S Rowe (US), S Hurley, R Davis (Aus), M Brier (Aut), R Byrd (USA), I Pyman, R Gonzalez (Arg), R Winchester, T Levet (Fr); 75 M Pinero (Sp), N Ludwell, R Coughlan, C Hainline (US), R Wessels (SA), W Riley (Aus), R Jacquelin (Fr), J Robinson, P Fowler (Aus); 76 A Raitt, J Spence, O Edmond (Fr), G Evans, L Parsons (Aus), R Karlsson (Swe), M Blackey; 77 G Brand Jnr, M Gates, A Butterfield, S Scahill (NZ); 78 K Baraka (Ger); 79 S Richardson. Disq: K Carissimi (US).

Comments